A ceremony is being held this week to commemorate Chief Ahan on the 154th anniversary of his wrongful trial and hanging.
This week, the City of New Westminster host the Tsilhqot’inNation, who will hold a ceremony at the New Westminster Secondary School site. Ahan was hanged in downtown New Westminster on July 18, 1865.
“In the spirit of working towards reconciliation and to acknowledge the wrongful trial and hanging of Chief Ahan on July 18, 1865, the Tsilhqot’inNation and the City of New Westminster stand together in a ceremony in honour of Chief Ahan,” said a press release from the City of New Westminster. “The ceremony will be held at New Westminster Secondary School where it is believed Chief Ahan could be buried.”
As part of its reconciliation efforts, New Westminster city council recently approved $12,000 to fund a Chief Ahan commemorative event and visits with the Tsilhqot’in Nation.
According to the press release, attendees at Thursday’s ceremony include: Chief Joe Alphonse – Tl’etinqox (Anaham); Chief Wayne Sparrow – Musqueam; Chief Rhonda Larrabee – Qayqayt; Chief Francis Laceese – Tl’esqox (Toosey); and Chief Jimmy Lulua – Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah). Local politicians attending the ceremony will include Mayor Jonathan Cote, Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian and Anita Ansari, vice-chair of the New Westminster Board of Education.
The ceremony takes place on Thursday, July 18, at 11:30 a.m. at New Westminster Secondary School, 835 Eighth St.
In recent years, members of the Tsilhqot’inNation have travelled to New Westminster to commemorate Ahan at the school site and the old courthouse site in downtown New West, as these are the two properties where Ahan may be buried.
Ahan was one of six Tsilhqot'in First Nation war chiefs who were executed following the Chilcotin War between the Tsilhqot'in people and European settlers that occurred in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast of B.C. Five of the chiefs were executed in Quesnel in October 1864, and Ahan was hanged in New Westminster the following year.
In October 2014, the provincial government formally apologized in the legislature to the Tsilhqot’in Nation for the arrest and hanging of six of its war chiefs.
In March 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an apology, recognized the six chiefs and absolved the Tsilhqot'in leaders of any wrongdoing, saying they were treated and tried as criminals in an era where both the colonial government and the legal process did not respect the inherent rights of the Tsilhqot'in people.